Featured Grants from Previous Years

More Featured Grants from Previous Years

The Nature Conservancy

Ecotourism Models and Marketing

Travel & Tourism is now one of the largest industries in the world contributing over 10% to global GDP. Ecotourism is the fastest growing sector of this industry, yet seldom contributes to maintaining the parks and preserves upon which it depends. The Nature Conservancy and the Walker Foundation have jointly developed this project to address a growing economic challenge – the need to develop mechanisms for supporting protected areas providing ecosystem services valuable to the US and other nation’s economies.

Ecosystem services are generally taken for granted as “free services of nature.” However, economists have long recognized that when services or goods are free for the taking, they tend to be depleted, resulting in a phenomenon known as “the tragedy of the commons.” One way to avoid overuse by tourists is to charge for access and invest the funds in improved management. The value of recreation opportunities provided by parks is typically under priced or inefficiently administered. Many parks either charge low or no fees for visitation, consequently, funds generated by tourism are usually insufficient to cover the costs of biodiversity conservation or even the costs associated with providing visitation opportunities themselves. This challenge can be addressed through the framework of ecosystem services and natural capital.

An example of our international work that benefits the US is at Gladden Spit Marine reserve in Belize. The spawning aggregations of huge numbers of pelagic fish and whale sharks we seek to protect do not respect international boundaries, but in fact migrate all over the Western Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico including into territorial waters of the US and US dependencies (US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico). US fisheries are already under pressure from overfishing, making protection of these international spawning sites essential. Dive user fees developed through this grant are generating income used to fund improved management of the preserve. Additionally, the lessons learned from our work in developing dive user fees has provided a model for colleagues working to establish similar models in Hawaii.

This grant supports a multi-year program with multiple goals: 1) Ecotourism management planning develops comprehensive plans for protected areas to generate funds for site conservation and sustainable local community development. 2) Visitor use fee systems have been implemented at three international sites in Belize, Baja California, and Bolivia. 3) The international work is contributing to conservation and economic development in many US locations, including the Virginia Coast Preserve and Pascagoula River, Mississippi. 4) Market research conducted by the Nature Conservancy on a base of more than one million members benefits many smaller ecotourism businesses that can not afford such broad-based surveys. 5) Guide training includes courses and instructional materials. Income from ecotourism can provide alternatives to unsustainable activities such as logging of sensitive habitat and dynamite fishing. 6) Developing business partnerships provides expanded opportunities to market services and share successful conservation strategies.

Whale shark photo from ecotourism site in Belize by Karen Koltes.

Learn more about aggregations of spawning fish that attract rare whale sharks.

Download a grant report and statement of future funding needs.

Learn more about the Nature Conservancy Ecotourism Program directly supported by the Foundation.

Property and Environment Research Center, Reason Public Policy Institute, Environmental Defense, The Nature Conservancy, and Sand County Foundation

Building a Coalition for Individual and Community-Based Fishing Quotas

For decades, U.S. federal fisheries policy has relied on direct regulations to prevent overfishing. Beginning in the 1980's, international territorial limits have been extended in stages from three miles to two hundred miles. Such approaches have not eliminated overfishing.

Although it is widely accepted that single populations can be fished to low levels, a 2003 study published in the widely-respected journal Nature, showed a 90 percent decline in major commercial species from the world's oceans and continental shelves. Based on nearly 50 years of data, the study sounded an alarm that current management policies are not working. Yet there are isolated cases such as in New Zealand, Iceland, and the U.S. Halibut fishery, where stocks have begun to recover. Rather than setting overall catch quotas, these fisheries have established individual fishing quotas.

The idea of using property rights to protect fisheries is not new. In some areas of the world, particularly islands of the Pacific, native societies established a form of marine conservation that protected reefs and lagoons from overfishing. The right to fish in an area was controlled and no outsiders were allowed to fish without permission. During World War II these traditional systems of community fishing quotas were abolished, resulting in overfishing.

Fisheries have declined for many reasons, including pollution, coastal development, and climate change, but the main problem, nearly everyone agrees, is overfishing. Seventy-five percent of the seafood consumed in the United States in now imported. According to the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, commercial and recreational saltwater fishing have a value of $50 billion a year. Given the economic importance of the fishing industry, and the vital role ocean ecosystems play in providing ecosystem services, the Walker Foundation has launched an initiative to recover fisheries.

The purpose of this project is to develop a coalition of fishing, environmental, and natural resource policy groups in support of Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) programs, to educate policy makers about how these programs should be implemented through a series of seminars, informational booklets, and to develop a project web site. IFQ programs promoted here include quota allocations to local communities (also referred to as community development quotas or CDQs), as currently carried out in the Alaska halibut fishery and the British Columbia groundfish trawl fishery. The first year of the project is addressing three major areas:
• Overcoming obstacles to IFQ programs
• Ecological benefits of IFQ programs
• The role of IFQ programs in improving governmental accountability

The second year of the project has two goals:
1) Implement IFQ programs in three U.S. fisheries identified during the first year.
2) In partnership with The Nature Conservancy, identify international sites where IFQs or CDQs can be combined with marine preserves to benifit local communities and help recover sensitive marine ecosystems. The Conservancy's strategy will include developing user fees charged to divers and other ecotourists in support of improved monitoring and management. By developing one or more international sites that demonstrate successful management, the partners believe similar approaches will then by adopted by U.S. fisheries.

Photo by Barrett Walker.

An article in Philanthropy Magazine provides background information on the project and specifically how the Walker Foundation became involved. Free Market Answer to Saving Ocean Fisheries

For more information go to the project website Building a Coalition for Individual Fishing Quotas.

National Wildlife Federation

Wildlife Conflict Resolution Through Voluntary Buyout of Federal Grazing Allotments

Domestic livestock grazing occurs on 250 million acres of federal public lands. The rates charged for grazing private livestock on public lands are generally below market rates. According to American Lands, annual taxpayer subsidies total approximately $500 million, with returns of only $7 million in grazing fees.

A number of environmental groups have long claimed that grazing is damaging wildlife habitat, harms watersheds, and wastes taxpayer money. Ranchers have countered that harm to wildlife is exaggerated, and that subsidies keep prices for beef affordable and help to maintain a traditional way of life. The alternative, they say, is the sale and subdivision of large tracts of land in the American West. Many of the small, but vocal minority of ranchers who hold grazing allotments, say that continued operation of their base lands depends on subsidized access to public lands.

The Foundation sought a voluntary, market approach to resolving the conflict. Beginning in 2002, The National Wildlife Federation was funded for development of a program to identify specific allotments in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem where conflict exists between livestock and wildlife, and to arrange for the voluntary purchase or exchange of those allotments.

The initial program was successful in achieving its goals and has been widely praised by wildlife managers, ranchers, and environmentalists in ending local conflicts while fairly compensating private holders of grazing allotments. For more information on individual projects, refer to the links below.

Despite the success of individual buy outs, criticisms remain. Areas that have been retired from grazing could be released to different ranchers. National Wildlife has said the grazing retirements should be permanent and will defend their purchases, but until federal law is changed, there is no assurance that buyouts will remain permanent. Although local ranchers wishing to resolve conflicts have been willing participants, opposition to changing federal law runs deep. National Wildlife is working to build on their success by seeking other local examples where grazing buyouts resolve wildlife conflict and save money in the long run.

The currently funded project is a study to determine whether allotment retirement could be an effective strategy for eliminating some of Wyoming's elk feed grounds.  It is widely recognized that winter feeding of elk is not based on scientific or sustainable resource management principles. Rather, it is a result of intense public pressure that has arguably created more problems than it has resolved, including habitat degradation and disease reservoirs. We believe a viable solution or alternative to feed grounds may be accomplished by making native range available to elk through purchase, lease or easement on private range and retirement of grazing and range improvements on public lands adjacent to feedgrounds. The goal is to close expensive-to-operate feedgrounds without causing a significant decline in wintering elk numbers or increase in game damage.

Photo by Hank Fischer.

Learn more about the Horse Butte Project (pdf)

Learn more about the Blackrock Project (pdf)

Learn more about the Moose Creek Project (pdf)

Institute for Justice
Strategic Litigation Targeting Laws and Government Policies that Stifle Liberty and Enterprise
Across America, countless men and women work to secure their share of the American Dream, only to have their efforts thwarted by an overreaching government that erects roadblocks on a number of fronts. Sometimes it’s arbitrary regulations that restrict participation in the occupation they want to pursue. Other times, it’s a local government abusing its power of eminent domain to take away their home or business. And still other times, it’s overzealous public officials restricting a small business’s means of communicating with its customers. Entrepreneurship flourishes in conditions of economic freedom, secure property rights, equal opportunity and free speech. Restoring even a modicum of restraint on the seemingly ever-increasing power of government may seem hopeless, but it’s not. The Institute for Justice fights this grassroots tyranny every day, pitting our David clients against governmental Goliaths, and winning. Through strategic litigation, the Institute advances a rule of law under which individuals can control their own destinies as free and responsible members of society. IJ litigates to secure economic liberty, school choice, private property rights, freedom of speech, and other vital individual liberties, and to restore constitutional limits on the power of government.

Learn more about the Institute for Justice.
See a report on recent accomplishments Walker Grant Report.

Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE)
Seminars for Law Professors and Federal Judges
Seminars take an interdisciplinary approach combining economics, ecology, and ethics to examine constructive alternatives for providing environmental quality. The Montana location is ideal for discussions on issues such as “public ownership and political management where taxpayers all too often subsidize destructive activities such as money losing timber sales on the national forests.”

Learn more about the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment.

Montana Challenge - Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, the U.S. Forest Service
Powerful economic and demographic forces are taking place throughout Montana the Rocky Mountain West and other resource-rich areas of the United States. These forces are challenging Montana communities to re-examine the basic tenets of economic development and the role of natural resources. Once valued almost exclusively as a source of timber, mineral, and agricultural commodities, Montana’s natural resources are increasingly seen as key “quality of life” assets essential in attracting the people and businesses creating economic opportunity and prosperity. As the old adage that “people follow jobs” gives way to “jobs follow people”, Montana is coming to understand the importance of environmental quality to economic development. The Alex C. Walker Foundation worked with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, the U.S. Forest Service, and other cooperators on a multi-year initiative called the Montana Challenge to gather 30 years of data – demographic, economic, social, tourism and recreational uses, legal – to study and document the changing role of natural resources in Montana’s economy. The Montana Challenge paints a clear picture, drawn from in depth data analyses by leading researchers and experts, of the critical connection between the health of Montana’s extraordinary environmental assets and Montana’s economic and cultural prosperity.

Learn more about the Montana Challenge and view detailed study reports.

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